Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Institute for Research on Poverty picked as U.S. research center

The federal Economic Research Service has chosen the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Institute for Research on Poverty to be a national center for research on nutrition assistance programs.

La Follette School, IRP longtime collaborators

The La Follette School and the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have a longstanding reciprocal relationship.

Four La Follette faculty members have served as IRP directors or associate directors. Many La Follette faculty are IRP faculty affiliates, and many La Follette students conduct research as part of IRP projects.

IRP's RIDGE Center for National Food and Nutrition Assistance Research will serve as a nationwide hub for sponsoring innovative research related to such programs as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, and as a center for training and mentoring scholars.

The Institute for Research on Poverty — the nation's first poverty research center — was founded in 1966 to study why Americans live in poverty and what can be done to end it. From 1999-2009, the institute was one of five institutions sponsoring food assistance research for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, as part of the Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics (RIDGE) Program.

The program is now being consolidated into two centers, one focusing on national research studies that will be housed in the Institute for Research on Poverty at UW-Madison, and another focusing on targeted studies, to be housed at the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University.

With the Center for National Food and Nutrition Assistance Research, IRP will continue its long tradition of conducting policy-relevant research, training and mentoring the next generation of poverty scholars, and of broadly disseminating its findings, with a renewed emphasis on food assistance research.

IRP plans to fund innovative outside food assistance research projects, train graduate students in such research, host a visiting scholar and an annual conference, and incorporate a greater food assistance focus into a variety of ongoing initiatives.

"We are the prime national center for coordinating this kind of research, and it is nice to be recognized as such," says IRP director Timothy Smeeding, a professor with the La Follette School of Public Affairs who will serve as associate director of the nutrition research center. "We're looking forward to leading the nation in this vitally important area, as food assistance research will take on added emphasis as one of our focal research areas."

Institute for Research on Poverty selected as national research hub, February 1, 2010, University of Wisconsin-Madison News

A version of this story appeared in the spring 2010 La Follette Notes newsletter for alumni and friends.